Johnson City Parks and Recreation reveals Winged Deer Park athletic facility concepts

Zach Vance • Updated Nov 2, 2017 at 11:11 PM

Before spending millions on new athletic facilities, Johnson City commissioners are carefully weighing their options, questioning what type of fields are needed and where they should be located.

One potential destination is Winged Deer Park, and during a Thursday evening workshop, commissioners got a glimpse of what a Winged Deer Park expansion might entail.

Daniel Bouttee, senior landscape architect for Lose & Associates, presented two similar concepts designed on two plots of privately owned land next to Winged Deer Park.

The concepts were drawn atop 62 acres, currently owned by Joe Wilson and Heyward Sell, positioned south of Winged Deer Park. If commissioners eventually decide to pursue one of the two concepts, the city would purchase both pieces of property for approximately $2.5 million, Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl said.

Both of Bouttee’s concepts featured five 300-foot diamond fields that are arranged in a star shape, two 225-foot diamond fields and two 180-by-300-foot rectangular fields. Other additions included a maintenance building, a picnic area, a 75-spot parking lot, a playground, a walking path and restrooms.

The main difference between the “Plan A” and “Plan B” was the positioning of the two 225-foot diamond fields and the two rectangular fields. Parks and Recreation Director James Ellis and his staff recommended “Plan B” because it arranged the diamond fields and rectangular fields together, while “Plan A” had the two rectangular fields separating the smaller diamond fields from the larger star-shaped fields.

“Plan B has a similar kind of layout, but what it does is it has correct solar orientation for the soccer fields, which to me is an advantage. It also keeps the softball complex consolidated so all seven fields would be within eyesight,” Bouttee said. “The playground also moves from near Bristol Highway up more centrally located with the pavilion overlooking it. In my opinion, that’s why more people prefer this plan is because it’s got that core where once you enter the facility, you’re there.”

“According to the recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the direction we were given was to pursue the diamond fields and pursue that first and foremost as the immediate need. Then look at properties that would accommodate rectangular fields,” Ellis said.

City Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin did express some disappointment that renderings hadn’t been constructed for an athletic facility suited for more rectangular fields. 

“The commission needs to understand a broader picture than just the diamond (fields),” Van Brocklin said. “I would like to see the broader concept developed so that I understand before I make any decision on anything what I’m looking at dollar-wise; what I’m looking at potential-wise to go on a piece of property; how that meets our needs for both our populace and for developing tournaments and what the return on that investment looks like it’s going to be.”

Even though cost projections were not exact, commissioners were taken aback by the price tags for the two concepts, with “Plan A” costing an estimated $17.62 million and “Plan B” costing roughly $18.1 million, not including the land acquisition price.

Bouttee said additional restroom facilities in the second concept contributed to the higher price, in addition to other factors.

“This is still not fully designed. Cost estimates will only be as detailed as the design is. While this is a really nice-looking plan, there is still a lot of conversations we need to have. One being what property are we looking at and things like materials,” he said. “In short, this is not a low-dollar facility. This is a high-end facility, so some of the numbers are going to relate to that. There are ways that we could obviously look at something more cost-effective.”

While commissioners still have plenty of decisions to make, Finance Director Janet Jennings said the city could actually purchase the Wilson and Sell property during this fiscal year.

“Going into next year, as far as capacity for what we can include in a new bond issue, we do have room for the land purchase. We have about $6 million in capital that we could finance during fiscal year 2019, but just $6 million, not $20 million. The next fiscal year, ending 2020, there is an additional $4 to $5 million in debt roll-off. Again, that’s not $20 million, but that gets you halfway there. In the next year, fiscal year ending 2021, is really when you can do the remainder of the bond issue. There is about $24 million that we could finance in capital,” Jennings said.

Ellis said the next step will likely be looking at drafting a rendering for a soccer complex on land near Indian Ridge Road.

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.

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